The Elf on the Shelf

A Christmas IP Success Story

Since elves seemingly first made their appearance in Norse mythology in the 1500’s they’ve had several image changes. They have been considered to have strong magical powers, cause illness and, more recently, have taken on the role of being the ultimate pranksters.

With the Christmas season fast approaching, the image of elves as Santa’s helpers probably came from the 1812 Brothers Grimm fairytale, The Elves and the Shoemaker. In that story, a poor shoemaker, beaten by the number of shoes he has to make, goes to sleep, only to wake up to see all of his shoes finished. Yes, the elves take over at night and yes, he finally works out who helped him.

Fast forward, about 193 years, to another story, this one written by Carol Aebersold and her daughter, Chanda Bell. In 2005, mother and daughter self-published “The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition” which came with a small toy “Scout Elf”. In the book, the Scout Elf is Santa’s eyes for seeing what naughty and nice things people have done in their homes during the day. He flies to the North Pole each night, reports to Santa and then returns home to take up his position in another part of the house.

Protecting The Elf on the Shelf

In a master stroke for future merchandising, Bell made it clear that Scout Elves aren’t bought but rather adopted, much like the Cabbage Patch Kids which had their birth in the 1980s. Possibly, without even knowing that the Scout Elf from the book was going to be such a success, Chanda Bell did the right thing and secured the necessary intellectual property rights.

In Australia, the earliest THE ELF ON A SHELF trade mark was registered from 11 June 2008 in the name of CCA and B, LLC, a company created by Carol, Chanda and Chanda’s sister, Christa. That first registration was in class 16 for “Children’s activity books; children’s books” and class 28 for “Dolls and children’s books, sold as a unit”.

In 2016, registration was obtained for  for the same goods. Interestingly, this registration claimed the colours red and yellow as a feature of the mark, with the endorsement setting out where those colours appeared.

In 2020, CCA and B, LLC rebranded to The Lumistella Company to reflect the company’s worldwide expansion and its focus on consumer products, brand experiences and entertainment-based content. This can be reflected in other registrations that soon followed such as the 2020 registration of THE ELF ON THE SHELF in classes 9 and 41. This registration included goods such as mobile apps, motion picture films and DVDs and services such as entertainment, live performances, children’s film and television, amusement parks and animation.

In the US, there are a number of related works registered on the Copyright Register. The earliest date back to 2005 and include registrations for visual materials relating to the book’s illustrations, the doll and the book itself. More recently, The Lumistella Company has obtained registrations for The Elf on the Shelf’s Night Before Christmas video, sheet music, lyrics and sound recording.

Also in 2020, Netflix acquired the audiovisual rights to develop original stories that were in The Lumistella Company’s portfolio. Having made sure that all intellectual property rights were secured, The Lumistella Company was in a good position to engage in licence agreements, not just with Netflix but also with companies such as Kellogg’s and Honey Baked Hams.

A Christmas Success

There is no doubt that The Elf on the Shelf has been a great Christmas success story. According to The Lumistella Company’s website, over 25 million The Elf on the Shelf brand Scout Elves, Elf Pets and Elf Mates have been adopted in 24 countries. That’s a lot of elves doing Santa’s work!

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, the team at Wrays wish you lots of luck with creating your own IP success stories and are here to provide you with assistance on your journey.  We wish you a safe and happy festive season (perhaps with some elf visits!) and a prosperous start to 2024.



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